One of my absolute favorite things is when someone cooks for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love feeding other people, but when someone cooks for me it always feels special…no matter what. Even if it’s just a normal, casual get-together. It feels so kind and nourishing to enjoy someone else’s food for a change. Beyond the nourishment, I also enjoy seeing how other people cook, what kinds of food they make, and which ingredients inspire them. As is the case with this Green Olive and Walnut Pasta. Recently, a friend hosted a group of us for dinner. While we each brought a side dish, the hostess created this lovely main course. Apparently, it’s a family recipe she’s been making for years, and I absolutely loved it. See, I adore olives and pasta but never in all my years had I put the two together in this way. Immediately, inspiration was born.
How my mind works is that I immediately write up my own recipe, or version, in my head. Then, I try it at home and see what I think of my version. This one, I have to admit, is going to become a staple in my house now, too. The briny, meaty olives with the earthy walnuts are a sauce all on their own, but I added some kale (nurition!) and parsley (freshness), along with vinegar to brighten it up and garlic to give it that real Italian quality. I’m in love. And that is what cooking is really all about – great food, new combinations and learning from one another.
I’m a big fan of “sauces” like this because they come together so quickly with the help of a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can also chop everything by hand, then mix it together in a bowl. Since the olives and walnuts can be chunky or smooth, it’s really about how much chopping you want to do to get your desired texture. I start by adding the parsley, kale and garlic to the bowl along with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, and getting it all pretty finely chopped. I stop and scrape the sides down a few times, then process again and again until it’s nice and uniformly small.
Then, I add the olives and walnuts. I purposely add these last so I can leave them a little chunkier. Pulse, pulse, pulse….
…and Voila! Super-duper simple, no?
This can all be done while the pasta boils, and then just tossed with the warm pasta after it’s strained. Of course, I love adding a little shredded Parmesan cheese over the top, too, but that’s optional. Anytime you take hearty ingredients like walnuts and olives and chop them into a pesto-like sauce, it turns something somewhat plain and ordinary, like pasta, into something satisfying and fulfilling. A complete meal, if you will, all in the time it took to boil. Enjoy!
Super simple olive and walnut pesto-like sauce is perfect for a mealtime pasta dish.
- 1/2 pound pasta – white, whole wheat, gluten free – as long as it has some nooks and crannys
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 large handful parsley
- 4 large kale leaves, stems removed
- 1 1/2 cups green olives, pitted but not stuffed, about 6-7 ounces
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Parmesan cheese, optional
- Fill large saucepan with water and set over high heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 7 minutes, or according to time on package. Strain.
- While pasta cooks, set up a food processor with the blade attachment. Add garlic clove and chop. Scrape down sides, tear leaves of kale and add to the garlic along with a generous handful of parsley leaves. Add a splash of red wine vinegar along with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Process until finely chopped.
- Scrape sides again, add olives and walnuts. Pulse until mixture is homogenous but still chunky. Check seasoning and add salt, pepper or another splash of vinegar to taste. For a slightly looser sauce, add another tablespoon of olive oil.
- Once pasta is strained, place back in the pot used for cooking and toss with the walnut and green olive mixture until pasta is well coated. Check seasoning one last time and adjust as necessary. Scoop pasta with walnuts and green olives into serving bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese if desired.
The best pasta for this dish is something with nooks and cranny’s so the sauce can get stuck all up in there and give each bite exceptional flavor. However, with so many alternative options on the market today, you can use whichever healthier variety you prefer such as chickpea pasta, whole wheat pasta, protein pasta, etc.